{Stargazing}: Fall & Winter Skies

It turns out that as the season cools down, stargazing warms up. The skies are clearer, and light pollution tends to tone down a bit. Some might be deterred by the cold, but look at fall and winter stargazing as an opportunity for a real event… bring blankets, a thermos of hot chocolate, a stocking cap, and your favorite cuddle buddy.

We have been inspired to stargaze this season by our friend Allison at Seneca Creek Photography. She has found the spirit of stargazing adventure, and an eye for capturing it. Her night sky photographs are incredible, to say the least. She recently took a camping trip out into the mountains, and captured a lovely Milky Way photo collection. So we find ourselves heading out into the mountains on dark, dark nights to find the same.

“Make sure you are warm and try for clear weather on a new moon,” says Allison. “The more comfortable you are the longer you’ll be out there and have time for your eyes to adjust.  Hot coco and hand warmers are a must for me!”

Cabin under Orion and a winter starry sky, Allshouse Ranch, Ante
by Allison Pluda, http://www.SenecaCreekPhotography.com

To find something worth watching in our Rocky Mountain skies, there are some lessons to consider. Things like going when there’s not a full moon, watching the forecast for cloud cover, and getting out of town to a low/no-light area to dramatically improve your experience. We then turn to Stargazing Tonight to learn about things like sky events coming up, what to watch for, and how to see what you’re trying to see.

There are always events going on in our skies, including full moons, new moons, planet positioning and meteor showers. We love to watch for the meteors, which seem to give the biggest bang for the buck in terms of action. You can check out the sky’s activity in this Astronomical Calendar. Or, here are the meteor showers coming up from now until the end of the year:

  • Tonight, October 21st – The Orionids meteor shower will be peaking. This meteor shower is the result of the Earth’s orbit passing through debris from Halley’s Comet. The radient will be located in the constellation Orion. The typical hourly rate of visible meteors is 25 per hour.
  • October 31st – The Taurids meteor shower will be peaking. This meteor shower is the result of the Earth’s orbit passing through debris from the comet Encke. The radient will be located in the constellation Taurus. The typical hourly rate of visible meteors is 15 per hour.
  • November 7th – The Leonids meteor shower will be peaking. This meteor shower is the result of the Earth’s orbit passing through debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle. The radient will be located in the constellation Leo. The typical hourly rate of visible meteors is 15 per hour.
  • December 13th – The Geminids meteor shower will be peaking. This meteor shower is the result of the Earth’s orbit passing through debris from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The radient will be located in the constellation Gemini. The typical hourly rate of visible meteors is 50 per hour.
  • December 23rd – The Ursids meteor shower will be peaking. This meteor shower is the result of the Earth’s orbit passing through debris from the comet Tuttle. The radient will be located in the constellation Ursa Minor. The typical hourly rate of visible meteors is 20 per hour.

We also love to use the Luna Solaria app that shows moon phases on your smartphone. And the Skyview Free app shows the names of the different stars and planets as you hold your phone up to the sky.

logo-lunasolaria-m skyview free

So find your tools, your camera, your cuddle buddy. Look up, see the sky through your own eyes, and enjoy the moment. We hope this inspires you to take a new look at our night skies, and find time to make a stargazing memory.

“The night is even more richly coloured than the day. . . . If only one pays attention to it, one sees that certain stars are citron yellow, while others have a pink glow or a green, blue and forget-me-not brilliance. And without my expiating on this theme, it should be clear that putting little white dots on a blue-black surface is not enough.”

– Vincent van Gogh (painter of Starry Night), letter to sister, September 1888

Stargazing 2 - Seneca Creek Photography - Girls of a Feather
by Allison Pluda, http://www.SenecaCreekPhotography.com
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